Research and Assessment coordinates student academic assessment and evaluation efforts in the district. We support the administration of district and state assessments and assist in the use of this data in the educational decision-making process.

Special Note for 2021-22

Last spring, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) informed schools that the annual spring state tests were to be postponed until this fall. This decision was made in order to prioritize in-person instructional time since many students were learning within hybrid instructional models.

This delay applies to the tests required for federal accountability – the English language arts and math assessments from Smarter Balanced as well as the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science (WCAS). Because the Washington Access to Instruction and Measurement (WA-AIM) had begun at this decision point, OSPI simply extended the spring 2021 window for that alternate assessment into fall. The overall result is that, this fall, students will take the required state tests postponed from last spring and then take their on-grade level tests required in the spring of 2022.

In October and November, students in grades 4–9 and 11 will take last spring’s Smarter Balanced tests in math and English language arts. The students who were to take the WA-AIM alternate assessment last spring, but could not, will complete it this fall. Students in grades 6, 9 and 12 will take the WCAS or the WA-AIM science test.

For this special administration, the Smarter Balanced and WCAS tests were shortened to minimize student time testing and create more time at the start of school year for students and teachers to establish relationships and routines.

In April and May, students in grades 3–8 and 10 will take the Smarter Balanced or Washington Access to Instruction and Measurement (WA-AIM) tests in math and English language arts. Students in grades 5, 8 and 11 will take the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science (WCAS) or the WA-AIM science test.

State Assessments

Bellingham Public Schools gives annual state assessments to students in grades 3 – 8 and high school. English language arts (ELA) and math are measured with Smarter Balanced tests. Science is measured with the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science (WCAS) in grades 5, 8 and 11. For a small number of students, the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science (WCAS) is administered as an alternate assessment, per the student’s IEP.

Multilingual learners who qualify for additional English language proficiency support also participate in an annual assessment. In Washington, we give the WIDA English language proficiency assessment to all qualified students in grades K-12. This measures their progress with English language proficiency and determines which students will remain eligible for continue language services.

The Bellingham Promise, the district’s strategic plan, guides everything we do for our students, families, community and staff. One of our core beliefs is to focus on the whole child. State tests are only one benchmark; other measures and evidence are just as important in assessing the development of our kids. We encourage you to keep these tests in perspective of our overall goals.

These state tests assess our learning standards in English language arts, mathematics, and science, which strive for college and career readiness by high school graduation. Please keep in mind that your child’s teachers are the best resource for a complete picture of your child’s academic proficiency.

Preliminary results from the Smarter Balanced English language arts and mathematics tests are available to schools electronically within three to four weeks after a student completes testing. Results from the science test are available in the fall. Score reports for families are loaded into Skyward Family Access and paper copies are available in the fall.

Don’t forget a good night’s sleep and healthy breakfast are an essential part of every school day. Your child(ren)’s school(s) send information about testing dates.

State Assessments for All Students


The state testing schedule for fall 2021 and spring 2022. 

*Shortened tests are untimed but intended to take about one hour on average

Why are we taking a state test?

Classrooms and learner expectations can be different across the hall, the school, the district and the state. Over twenty-five years ago, Washington state decided that families have the right to know how students are progressing toward a common set of learning standards that help fulfill the basic rights of every student. So common assessments – our state tests – were written for teachers to use once a year, in addition to the various assessments and strategies that teachers use throughout the year in their classrooms.

Different kinds of assessments are used to tell us what to teach tomorrow, what progress students are making this month, when they have mastered key concepts, or when they’re ready for new information and thinking. The state tests tell us about progress from one year to the next in English language arts and in math. We also have state science tests that we use in fifth, eighth and eleventh grades. Over time, these will help fill in the picture about a student’s readiness for what comes after high school, which we call college and career readiness. A lot goes into preparing for adult life, and these academic measures are just one part of that preparation.

The state tests are not used to fill out report cards. And students do not need to pass the tests to move on to the next grade level. The state tests do, however, give teachers extra information about academic progress to help assure students are on the path to success. The state tests also help teachers, schools and districts know if our programs are effective or if changes are needed. When we all agree that one of our assessments each year is a common state test, it’s easier for us to measure student growth and ensure that our school programs are working well.